LIVE REVIEW: COALFIELDS FESTIVAL, DARTON, BARNSLEY

You may or may not already know the story about how Coalfields used to be called M-Fest and had been for a few years until supermarket giant Morrisons half-inched the name and started up their own Yorkshire based music festival; in turn, forcing the organisers into a name change. Well, bad karma hampered Morrison’s and their pop festival full of X-Factor rejects; with it eventuallly being cancelled due to the floods.

One week ago, Coalfields too looked like it could have headed in that direction but the organisers put in tremendous efforts to pump out all of the water from the fields and by the time came round, the fields were bone dry under the glorious Barnsley sun.

SATURDAY 14th JULY

Day One of the festival is full of extreme metal goodness, left-field indie stompers and many other quality live acts. First up was thrash metal band Dislocator (7). What they might lack in confidence, they more than make up for in technical ability and a cart load of decent tunes. Self deprecating as always, vocalist Andrew asks the audience if they’re ready to see some awesome bands once they’ve finished, before launching into Death Trap – maybe the best song in their set and a killer of an opening riff. Wasted Life has a slower groove, reminiscent of Megadeath and set closer Fire features Rob Scarfe doing a convincing impression of Cliff Burton on a number whose driving force is a monster of a bass riff.

It’s nearly two o’clock and it’s still relatively quiet. Over on the main stage is Stellavision (6). Their marching beats via 1997 are tight and with Glenn’s vocals having hints of The Levellers’ Mark Chadwick, Gay Dad’s Cliff Jones and The Auteurs period Luke Haines, they certainly offer up a decent slice of Britpop period indie.

Technical Metal outfit Remains of You (8) have gone through a lot of changes recently including recruiting a new vocalist. And when said vocalist didn’t make it to the festival, guitarist James Green stepped up. Remains of You and specifically James Green were on the mark!  In the Noise Delays Recovery tent, The Silent Gestures (7) are doing a sterling job. Sometimes it feels like you are listening to a bunch of shit-hot covers but what it actually is, is well crafted songs that are as good as those that have inspired them. With equal amounts of late-period Arctic Monkeys and a smidgen of Liam Gallagher snarl, a song that may just be called Drive With the Sun Behind You is easily a set highlight.

The Black Lamps (9) get the biggest turn-out of the day so far in the Noise Delays Tent. Their four members have played in some of Barnsley’s most influential bands and it shows because each one of them are exceptional. If you want a hint at what they sound like, refer to Joy Division’s Closer, The Cure’s Disintegration and U2’s The Unforgettable Fire.  Now with Cocean having split, it really doesn’t look like anyone will be bothering them anytime soon for the title of Barnsley’s finest epic post-rock act. Unforgettable and timeless; with songs like Sparrow Park and Beck and Call, they deserve to be big but something tells me they don’t give a shit.

I manage to catch the last half of Beyond Driven’s (7) set. When I first saw these guys eight months ago, I really weren’t that bothered about them but lately, they’re one of my favourite acts – one of our best rock bands. They’re  slick with sick riffs and sicker vocals but then it’s unfortunate that their set is marred by a broken string and the set’s closing songs being played minus the weight of rhythm guitar …Still played a blinder though.

By 5pm, stage times started to overlap, meaning if I wanted to see all of the bands I like, I was only going to catch half sets. Imoko Set (8) got one of the few showers to hit the festival, but still the heat and the sun shone through. Their brand of indie pop is faultless. Emma’s vocals are first-rate and a perfect foil for Jamie’s. Imoko Set can be compared with more obscure 90’s indie bands such as Salad and Dalgados but with absolutely classic songs like Hazards of Motion and First Of The Last, they actually have mass appeal and prove why they are one of Yorkshire’s finest  indie pop bands and .

Ripping it up over in Lid Up Tent are Harrogate’s Waking Theo (8). Now, I absolutely hate the term Metalcore, as there are many different types and I cannot stand the whiny vocals of some of the more emo-leaning bands but you get none of that. The band’s balance of technical brutal riffs with the ferocious vocals is perfect. With more than a hint of Killswitch Engage about them, this band pull their set off with confident ease and in Craig Gordon they have a fantastic and aggressive vocalist who isn’t scared to play with his audience.

Headlining the Noise Delays Stage is its organisers Toba Caldera (8), serving up their own brand of dark and heavy, reverb drenched shoegaze. Attracting the biggest indoor crowd of the day; the packed tent is literally shaken to its core with the Indie Doom gems like The Three of Me and Darkest Mind. The dual vocals of James and Nevyn work a treat as usual. These guys really must bring their feedback and dark psychedelia to the main stage next year.

Sunday 15th July

Saturday, albeit it a little quiet, was the turn of the extreme metal and shoegazing left-field indie acts. Sunday however, is a little more family orientated.. The Noise Delays Stage has turned into the more mainstream Burn Down the Disco Stage and the Lid Up Stage has changed into the Hitomi Stage; and for anyone unfamiliar with the band Hitomi, as the name suggests, the aggression that was there yesterday has turned into teenage angst and the RRRRRRAAAGGHHHHSS’s have turns into WWWWOOOOAAAHHHH’s.

First up on that stage is VolumeZero (7). It’s refreshing to see more female fronted bands. Musically, this one seem to taking influence from acts such as Funeral For a Friend, Foo Fighters and The Used but vocally, it’s going down the Paramore route. You can understand why Paramore seems to be a constant reference point for many young female front bands, as there really isn’t many other mainstream female fronted metal bands other than Rolo Tomassi or Halestorm. So even though there isn’t anything terribly original going on, the band actually have a hell of a lot of potential, technical ability and are a joy to watch and I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys  to see what they pull off next.

Shermer (9) over of at BDTD are one of the few bands I am genuinely looking forward to today. Frontman Tom Pendergast is one of the most talented musicians in town. Other than fronting Shermer, he plays brutal drums in Death Metal outfit C.F. Bundy and guitar in Tech Metal act Terrae. The guy is a wonder and here he is no different. In fact, Grant Nichols of Feeder is probably the closest reference point for me; not just vocally but also in the sheer quality of the song writing. And I’m not talking about the shite that Feeder churn out nowadays, but Feeder circa ’96-’98 when they were new and exciting and looked like they were going to be Britain’s answer to the Smashing Pumpins. Shermer’s songs are epic, accessible, Post-grunge at its best.

And on this Sunday, when the arena is swamped with Dad-friendly Pop, Soul and ‘Club’ acts, it’s hard to find some real good original music. I suppose then it is fitting that The Tiny Giants (7) are an acts that could appeal to both sides. Their sound is tight and not only is their bass-driven indie infused with funk and soul goodess but so too is James Earl’s vocals. It’s during their set that five security fellas decided to remove four lads for smoking ‘something;’ only I couldn’t smell shit all because the other kind of ‘grass’ was messing with my hay fever. James declares ‘they’ve been kicked out for smoking. That’s our four fans gone then.’ Luckily that’s not true and they pull off a decent set and everyone present loves it.

And so over on the Main Stage, it’s back to the ‘turns.’ Pulp Friction (7) is another Soul driven indie band. Initially touting themselves as a band playing the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, I have now seen them three times and since then they have changed the description on the tin. Amongst the Pulp Fiction tracks are a number of well-selected indie songs ranging from Two Princes to Lonely Boy and playing them are a band full of  real first class musicians.

Depending on the setting, their act can  incorporate a screen playing sections from Pulp Fiction and more recently a type of Burlesque troupe. They really don’t need any of that; quality songs are quality songs whatever the setting. Here in the festival setting, they have to settle for just two dancers. For me, they are  at their best when guitarist Mark Oats and drummer Mr. Moon take lead vocals on Chuck Berry’s You never Can Tell and Kings of Leon’s Molly’s Chambers. As is both the introduction to the film and the set opener Dick Dale’s Misirlou and Son of a Preacher Man – as sung by one of the two guest burlesque girls. However, it is the whole concept of playing the Pulp Fiction soundtrack that sets them apart from other ‘club’ acts. Their lead singer is most definitely a club singer. Having that personality fronting a band full of seasoned musicians is a great way of trying to bridge that gap between club land and the ‘original band’ circuit. I think part of me was initially a little disappointed that the band wasn’t entirely Tarantino soundtracks (something which I absolutely adore). It’s not like there aren’t enough songs to choose from. Regardless of Tarantino crush, there are countless cover bands and club acts over the day and yes, Pulp Friction are better than every single one of them. I can see them being book left right and centre and there will always be a need for bands like this, but it is no bad thing when I say they could be sooooo much better. Just watch this band grow.

Now I never mentioned it before but both Shermer and Little Giants had shit with their mics giving off constant electric shock. Penguin (5) though were the only band to complain about it; putting their start time back by ten minutes. When they did get going, the Wakefield trio were a woe-is-me mix of angular indie and post-punk emo. They did it well, but not my kind of thing.

Meanwhile… over on the main stage, unbelievably three cover bands have played Mr. Brightside and I’m told two of them also play Blink-182. Downer!

Now the last time I saw Goldsoul (9), they had their reverb turned up so high it ruined any enjoyment I could have got from their songs. Today, as they take to the stage, I’m thinking hey… where’s Mike? The lead guitarist and backing vocalist Mike is notably absent. His brilliant clean voice is normally a great counter-balance to David’s reverb drenched snarl. Initially, I thought this may hinder them and even though their sound was now much rawer, this stripped back approach totally suited them and their songs …and boy are they fucking good. Blood Red, Vamp and Kill All Love Songs have the same punk energy that Oasis had in their very early days, the same shoegaze sound that The Verve could never let go of but also the urgency of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Despite playing an undeservadly quiet tent, David seems at ease and is in a good mood. A fantastic set.

It’s been a great weekend with literally something for everyone. Maybe a bad move having a Soul tent as it was empty most of the day and maybe the very spacious Acoustic Tent could have been swapped with the Noise Delays/BDTD Tent. There were some acts that really deserved to be on that main stage, such as The Black Lamps and Shermer but other than these minor gripes, it really has been a triumph. The quality of the acts was fantastic; so much so that I never got chance to see all of those I wanted, including The Glavins, Mynas and the Acoustic Tent where there are always hidden gems. It is though a massive congratulations to all involved; organisers, acts and stall holders;

Words: Jason White, Fay-Marie Green

Photos: Jason White, Green Chicken, Dozyphoto, Rory Garforth Photographs

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